Cynthia “Cindy” Stutzer (Adjunct Professor)

The UBC School of Nursing was saddened to learn of the death of Cindy Stutzer, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Pediatric Oncology at BC Children’s Hospital and Adjunct Professor at the UBC School of Nursing, from ovarian cancer on May 31st. Cindy had been a clinical leadership powerhouse in our community, and an inspirational supporter of many of our undergraduate and graduate students since she joined our team in an adjunct capacity in 1992. Cindy’s degrees were a BSN from the University of Delaware and an MS from the University of Oklahoma. Here in Vancouver, she was the “go to” person in nursing for pediatric oncology, participating over the years in developing practice guidelines and standards, facilitating consensus statements among organizations, delivering numerous training sessions, and building communities of practice.

Beautifully capturing the personality, professionalism and power that Cindy brought to our nursing community and to health care in BC is the 2010 citation on the occasion of her being honoured with the College of Registered Nurses of BC’s Award of Distinction:

Cindy Stutzer has made the care of children and families the focus of her long career in nursing. As a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Pediatric Oncology and Palliative Care at British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital in Vancouver and in previous roles, her gentle yet professional manner has won her the appreciation of her patients and the admiration of her colleagues.

“Cindy’s work with palliative patients is what stands out for me,” says colleague Pia DeZorzi. “She works very closely with patients and their families as they transition from curative to palliative care, supporting them through this very difficult process and beyond.” Committed to providing additional support to families, she developed a series of informational pamphlets called “Parenting a dying child”, an award-winning resource available to families and caregivers worldwide.

Canadian pediatric palliative care practices owe much to Cindy’s work. She has developed policy and advocated better care and seamless transition for children at the end of their lives.

This is a field that can be extremely stressful for health care providers. Cindy has taken care to ensure not only that her colleagues have access to best practices in care, but also that they take care of their own mental stress. “She takes time to sit with people and to listen, to cry with them and is very supportive,” says Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist Dr. Caron Strahlendorf. “She has helped many young physicians and nurses through difficult and traumatic times.”

As a mentor, Cindy’s caring demeanor once more has helped her to impact others in extraordinary ways. “Cindy has been a mentor to not only junior nurses but to all her peers as well as to the physicians on the unit,” Strahlendorf adds. “She has often been able to guide them through difficult moral and ethical dilemmas.”

Cindy was also instrumental in getting the Blood and Marrow Transplant program accredited in 2008. She worked tirelessly in developing policies, standard operating procedures and other required documentation to ensure it met with standards for the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapies. This was a great example of Cindy’s commitment to patient care. “Cindy is not only accountable, but takes great responsibility for her work and encourages others to do the same,” says one colleague.

Cindy also participates in many activities outside the BCCH. She was on the planning committee for the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology. She is also chair of the nominating committee for the local chapter of the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses and is assistant editor for the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing.

Specializing in a field that includes perhaps some of the most stressful yet most emotionally rewarding work in health care, Cindy is a true example of a registered nurse who demonstrates excellence in practice.

In announcing her death, her family and close friends paid tribute to the care that she had received in her final hospitalization.

“It is with sadness that we need to inform you of Cindy’s death on Thursday evening (May 31) at 11:15 in the Palliative Care Unit at VGH in Vancouver. Her life ended according to her wishes and plans. She had declared her readiness to be finished and her leaving was very peaceful. The Palliative Care team were very good to their colleague, demonstrating the respect and honour she so earned and deserved.”

The UBC School of Nursing has been so fortunate to have benefitted from the clinical expertise, passion for practice, and unwavering commitment to mentoring the next generation of nurses that Cindy exemplified over so many years. She will be sadly missed.